Arusha, Tanzania – African Safari

We got back from our Kilimanjaro climb and literally booked our safari that night and left early the next day. We were late arriving to the truck because our driver got lost finding our home stay. But after some waiting around we were finally off to my most anticipated excursion in Africa.

Our first national park was the famous Serengeti. I dreamed of seeing the Great Migration and the vast plains crawling with wildebeest. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to behold that natural occurance but we did see a ton of wildlife. Just stopping at the gate to sign in introduced me to several wild elephants. One in particular was close to the cars… a guide said it was dangerous and scared it off. As we proceeded into the park we stopped the truck in the road while a couple of lionesses worked their way past marking their territory. We also got an up close look at a beautiful leapord as it laid out in a tree. The day also included buffalo, multiple species of gazelle, zebra, giraffes, ostriches, baboons, eland, topi, kongoni, warthogs, impala, and elephants! It was a great first day. We got to camp and ate dinner before heading to bed. Hyenas were active in the night. One girl from South Korea left her shoes outside the tent only to find it the next morning in the field missing one of her little decorative pieces.

We started early the next morning for another drive through the Serengeti to see many of the same things. Our first encounter was with a few lionesses being followed by a tiny cub that passed right by us. We did add a very close group of hyenas, a family of mongoose, rock hyrax, dik dik (small deer), wildebeest, secretary birds, hippos, and jackals to our animal list. We got very close looks at more lions as they relaxed in the sun. The coolest thing of the day was the giant family of elephants that included a tiny baby that slowly surrounded us as they made their way across the road. The entire experience was awe-inspiring!! It is something that takes your breath away. On the way to Ngorongoro Crater we spotted another leopard… Two in one trip is very lucky. This one was passed out in a tree with a dangling head and all. The last cool thing we saw at the gate was a cheetah!! Grant it we could only see it’s head with binoculars but hey we still saw one. My big cat list was pretty much complete with our first stop minus the serval cat which I had no hope of seeing anyway.

After a night of camping near Ngorongoro Crater we headed into the crater itself. Here the animals were more condensed in a smaller space compared to open space in the ocean of grass of the Serengeti. Right from the get go we saw two lions but surprisingly the only two of this area. We were zipping through massive herds of wildebeest and zebra watching while the wildebeest were having fun running around. We even spotted several hippos taking a stroll in the grass. There were two really cool animals that really stood out in Ngorongoro Crater. The first was what I would assume to be a very old elephant. It’s tusks were so massive they almost reached the ground. The second was the black rhino. Again, it was not the best view even with binoculars but I saw it’s giant horn on it’s face so I think it counts. That means that we had the privilege to see the big five during our safari. The big five includes the rhino, elephant, lion, leapord, and buffalo. The crater itself was beautiful but sadly we had an overcast morning so it was not nearly as beautiful as it could have been. Also our guide seemed to push us through it pretty quick because the other four people in our group were heading back to Arusha that night. Ultimately, we mainly added birds to our animal list such as the grey crowned crane and weavers.

During the last night we ended up staying at a camping lodge and actually got to sleep in a bed. The following morning we headed to Lake Manyara. This part of the safari was full of birds and monkeys. There were countless species of birds including hundreds of yellow-billed storks and pelicans, hornbills, ducks, flamingos, geese, and tons of other waterfowl. The monkeys included huge troops of baboons, blue monkeys, and sky monkeys. The monkeys were a lot of fun to watch especially the baboons. As I was hanging out of the window gawking I actually had one baboons try and punk me out. I realize now that hanging out the window was probably not the best idea. Otherwise there was a lot of what we already seen such as hippos, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, etc. This day was even more enjoyable due to the fact that it was only us and that our guide was in a more pleasant and talkative mood… He must not have liked the others very much.

All in all, this was a fantastic experience… Zoos will never be the same. To be able to see these animals in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime experience especially with the constant poaching and habitat destruction. It’s sad that these beautiful creatures could one day no longer exist. It was an honor and blessing to see them as they are!!

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